Duff still hungry for more after reaching milestone

MILESTONE GAME: Michael Duff on his 300th appearance for Burnley, against Charlton on Saturday.
MILESTONE GAME: Michael Duff on his 300th appearance for Burnley, against Charlton on Saturday.

Steve Cotterill described him as a “calculated risk” he believed was capable of stepping up a level.

300 games later, at a cost of £100 a match in terms of his transfer fee, it’s fair to say Michael Duff has more than proved worth the gamble.

Michael Duff on his 300th appearance for Burnley.

Michael Duff on his 300th appearance for Burnley.

Cotterill worked with the Northern Ireland international defender at Cheltenham Town, for whom he played at six different levels for, before moving with his former boss to Turf Moor in the summer of 2004.

On Saturday, in the 3-0 win at home to Charlton Athletic, Duff totted up his third century of appearances for the club - having achieved the same feat with Cheltenham, joining the likes of Sir Stanley Matthews and Phil Neville in reaching that milestone for two different clubs.

The journey has taken the 35-year-old from non-league to the Premier League, and he is currently in his 10th successive season in the top two tiers of English football.

He is entitled to a testimonial as he brings up a decade at Turf Moor, and he believes there is more to come, having wondered if he had kicked a ball professionally for the last time six years ago.

A multiple knee ligament problem could potentially have ended his career, but, instead, it proved the motivation to make the most out of what time he had left in the game.

Within two years, he was, as his twitter avatar proudly shows, taking on Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

And he said: “I was actually quite lucky when I did my knee because it came at 29 and it opened my eyes that my career’s finished here.

“You sort of get the hunger back again because it nearly got snatched away from you.

“It was all I’d ever done. It got me on the coaching badges.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do so it opened that avenue up and pricked my conscience into thinking ‘don’t be so selfish, it might not last forever, you need to look after it and yourself’.

“As strange as it sounds I was quite lucky really.

“I was lucky in several things, that the cruciate didn’t need doing, I had good physios around me and I had two managers - because there was a change of manager - who were both supportive, and a good surgeon as well.

“All the things came together.”

During that time, the likes of Graham Alexander were displaying how to help yourself prolong your career, by looking after your body with a level of professionalism that saw him pass 1,000 career appearances at the age of 39.

Alexander inspired many around him at Turf Moor, as Duff acknowledged: “I learnt a lot off Grezza.

“He’ll tell you himself he wasn’t the best pro when he was in his 20s because you sort of think it’s going to last forever.

“But you do have to start looking after yourself off the pitch, with ice baths and pre-hab.

“I pick up the phone to Grez quite regularly.

“He doesn’t give me advice but the conversations I’ve had with him obviously it pops up.

“Someone that’s played over 1,000 games you can’t help but learn off them and pick their brains about things like that.

“As a footballer as soon as you turn 30 you start reading the programme notes and the papers and it’s veteran this, veteran that. But I feel good.

“I’m sure I’ll get told at some point that I’m no longer wanted wherever, but until that point comes I still enjoy what I do.

“That’s the main thing.

“I’ve got to an age now where a lot of my mates are retiring and the main thing they say is I don’t enjoy training. I still love coming in.

“I’ve still got a hunger and a passion for the game.”